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The type of occasion generally determines how to lay dinnerware. At a multicourse meal, especially at a formal event, each course is served one at a time and dinnerware is laid in the center of the place setting. Side dishes are not served, cups and saucers do not appear on the table. At an informal meal, the menu is simpler and the courses are either laid on the table all at once or presented to the guests one at a time.
The guidelines for laying dinnerware are the following:
An elbow room of min. 40 cm is required between place settings.
The service plate, if used, is aligned flush with the edge of the table. Large plates are laid about 2,5 cm in from the edge of the table, small plates are laid in the centre of the cover, about 5 cm in from the edge of the table. Bread-and-butter plates are laid at the top left of the cover, above the dinner fork. The butter spreader is laid on the bread-and-butter plate horizontally, vertically or diagonally (a matter of choice).
Stemware is placed on the table in the order of use. At a simpler meal, one wine glass and a water goblet is used. Because water is taken throughout a meal, the goblet is placed in a position closest to the hand, 2,5 cm above the tip of the dinner knife. Wine glasses are placed in an order to accommodates the service of wine best. At formal multi course meals, to conserve space, stemware is arranged in a triangle (dessert glass forms the highest point, water goblet angled to the lower left of the dessert glass, glasses for red and white wine on the lower right side) or a diamond-shape (same as the triangle, but the white wine glass is angled to the lower left of the red wine glass).
The lower edges of the utensils are aligned with the bottom rim of the plate about 2,5 cm up from the edge of the table, also 2,5 cm away from the side of the plate to avoid hiding under rims.
Flatware is laid on the table in the order of use starting from the outside of the place setting moving inward toward the plate. Regardless of the number of courses served and when the utensils are placed on the table, the cover is always laid with a knife and fork. To alleviate clutter, no more than 3 knives, 3 forks and a soup spoon are laid on the table initially.
The knife and spoon are laid on the right side of the place setting, the fork on the left. The left-handed diner reverses the place setting. Fork tines may be placed downward continental style, or upward American style.
The dinner knife is laid to the right of the plate, blade facing the plate.
The soup spoon is placed on the right of the outside knife. Soup bowl and soup cup handles are aligned parallel with the edge of the table. When a soup bowl is presented on an underplate, the soup spoon is laid on the underplate, otherwise the spoon is laid in the bowl after use.
When salad is a first course, the salad fork is laid to the left of the dinner fork. If salad is served after the main course, the salad fork is placed to the right of the dinner fork. When salad is the main course, it is presented on a dinner plate.
When fish is served as an appetizer course, the fish knife is laid to the right of the dinner knife and the fish fork to the left of the dinner fork. When fish is served as a main course, the fish knife is placed to the right of the dinner plate, the fish fork to the left.
The seafood fork is the only fork placed on the right side of the place setting, laid on the right side of the soup spoon or tines placed in the bowl of the soup spoon with the handle at a 45-degree angle.
For dessert, in formal dining two dessert utensils (a dessert fork to the left and a dessert spoon or knife on the right) are presented on the dessert plate. At an informal meal when two utensils are provided for dessert, they are either presented on the plate, or laid on the table: the spoon or knife in a horizontal position above the dinner plate, handle facing right, the fork beneath the spoon or knife, handle facing left.
The fruit knife and fork are presented on the fruit plate in the same way as dessert utensils.
The teaspoon, after-dinner coffee spoon and demitasse spoon are placed on the saucer behind the cup handle, the handle facing the diner in a four o’ clock position. When a teaspoon is used as an eating utensil, it is laid on the right side of the place setting.
The iced-beverage spoon is laid on the table on the right side of the glass. Once used, it is held in the glass while drinking.
Cups and saucers are placed 2,5 cm beyond the outermost piece of flatware, cup handles facing a four o’ clock position for easy access.
To signal the end of the meal, flatware is placed on the side of the plate diagonally, with the handles in the four o’ clock position on the right rim of the plate, tips resting in the well of the plate in the ten o’ clock position, blades facing inward.